New book reveals All Blacks' winning culture

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2014

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A former All Black triallist has uncovered one of the great mysteries of the boys in black.

Massey University PhD graduate Tom Johnson has lived and breathed rugby his whole life, first as an avid fan and in later years as a New Zealand Rugby Union administrator - famously writing the original proposal for why New Zealand needed a Rugby World Cup.

At the age of 75 he's revealed the All Blacks keep winning because of an unwillingness to lose.

Yesterday his book Legends in Black - New Zealand Rugby Greats on Why We Win, which he co-authored with Massey Associate Professor Andy Martin, hit the shelves. "I'm quite surprised it's been so talked about . . . I'm no J K Rowling."

Johnson interviewed some of rugby's biggest names for his book, including Sir Brian Lochore, Wayne (Buck) Shelford, Sir Graham Henry and his old mate and fellow All Black trialist Sir Colin Meads.

"One thing that held the culture of the team together year after year was the ethos of winning. All Blacks right through the years are conscious of the pride in their country, the silver fern and maintaining that winning mentality. You don't get bouquets for losing."

He said with great expectations came public ridicule when athletes lost. "That's common in many countries, for example in India they go ballistic when they lose the cricket, or look at Brazil with the football World Cup."

The belief that the team would win was always driven by strong leadership, he said.

Meads grew up with the All Blacks never losing, and said nobody wanted to be part of a losing side.

"I think we're good sportsmen and we're good losers, but from New Zealanders' point of view there's no point in coming second.

"Every rugby player in New Zealand wants to be an All Black, regardless of whether they're 12-years-old or 26-years-old."

Meads, who captained the All Blacks, said he played under some great leaders, and each captain had their own style.

"There were different styles, but there was only one great message."

Martin, an English-born football-loving Kiwi, said he never expected to co-author a book on the All Blacks and was inspired by the legends he interviewed.

"The day Penguin reviewed the book was the day the All Blacks played Ireland. It's a good thing they won, otherwise things might not have worked out so well."

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